Giants May Be Next Member of First-To-Worst Club

The Giants have not had a great year, to put it plainly. In first place as late as May 26, things went south in a hurry, and they have spent most of August in last place. The race for the bottom in the National League West remains tight — only two games separate the third-place Rockies and last-place Giants. Still, the team’s predicament begs the question of whether or not San Francisco will be the next member in the selective first-to-worst club.

By my count — and keep in mind that I could have overlooked someone — the club is comprised of only eight teams, and three of them come with asterisks. First, the list:

Tm Yr 1 Record W-L% Finish Playoffs Yr 2 Record W-L% Finish
MIN Twins 2010 94-68 0.580 1st of 5 Lost LDS (3-0) 2011 63-99 0.389 5th of 5
TEX Rangers 1999 95-67 0.586 1st of 4 Lost LDS (3-0) 2000 71-91 0.438 4th of 4
PHI Athletics 1914 99-53-6 0.651 1st of 8 Lost WS (4-0) 1915 43-109-2 0.283 8th of 8
OAK Athletics 1992 96-66 0.593 1st of 7 Lost ALCS (4-2) 1993 68-94 0.420 7th of 7
MON Expos 1994 74-40 0.649 1st of 5 N/A 1995 66-78 0.458 5th of 5
FLO Marlins 1997 92-70 0.568 2nd of 5 Won WS (4-3) 1998 54-108 0.333 5th of 5
CIN Reds 1981 66-42 0.611 1st of 6 N/A 1982 61-101 0.377 6th of 6
SD Padres 1996 91-71 0.562 1st of 4 Lost LDS (3-0) 1997 76-86 0.469 4th of 4

The 1998 Marlins are a bit of a compromise, because as wild card turned World Series winners, the 1997 Marlins didn’t actually finish in first. Still, I had to include them because they were the only team to actually win the World Series one season and then finish in last place in the next. The 1982 Reds finished last on the heels of what was technically a first-place team, but due to the screwy way the 1981 season played out, Cincinnati didn’t make the postseason. They were second in each “half” of the season, and had the best record overall, but the playoff contestants were those that won each “half.” The 1994 Expos were robbed of a chance to take their crown, and the strike was the start of their ending. They didn’t have a true fire sale in the way the Marlins did because Larry Walker was free to sign with whomever he wanted, but the trades of Marquis Grissom, Ken Hill and John Wetteland in one 48-hour period were pretty damaging.

The worst offender on this list is also the first — the 1915 Philly Athletics. The team nearly 100 games in the regular season, but during the World Series they were either distracted by the newly formed Federal League or willfully tanking to spite manager Connie Mack and his cheapness. Whatever the reason, they were promptly broomed by the Boston Braves and then went on to seven straight last-place finishes. From 1915-1921, they went a collective 323-710-8, for an unfathomable .310 winning percentage.

All of the teams are more recent, when smaller divisions make it a little easier to go from first to worst. The Athletics became the first franchise to have two first-to-worst episodes when they bottomed out in 1993. Jose Canseco was gone, Mark McGwire was injured and Carney Lansford had retired. His replacement, Craig Paquette, posted a 67 wRC+, which couldn’t even compare to what Lansford had done in his last gasp. Ruben Sierra and Dave Henderson combined for -2.9 WAR as the starting right and center fielder, respectively. Henderson had only played nine games in center the previous season, but in ’93 he started 57 games there. The next season he would start in 37 games and then retire.

In 1999, two of the Rangers’ four best players were Juan Gonzalez and Aaron Sele. They were able to replace Sele with Kenny Rogers, but no one shined in Gonzalez’s wake. In addition, the team only received 89 games from Ivan Rodriguez — who still managed to compile 1.6 WAR more than the team’s next-best position player (Rafael Palmeiro, who played a full season). The starting pitching was worse, the hitting was bad and the fielding ranked dead last in the game.

In 2011, the Twins began a tailspin that they don’t figure to come out of any time soon. After a productive season in 2010, Delmon Young went back to being Delmon Young and Tsuyoshi Nishioka happened. The team’s five-best players in 2010 had been Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Francisco Liriano, Jim Thome and Orlando Hudson. In ’11, Hudson went elsewhere, Thome and Liriano weren’t up to par (that’s putting it kindly in Liriano’s case) and Mauer and Morneau got hurt. If that isn’t a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.

Then there are the 1997 Padres. If they seem relevant to this discussion, it’s because their manager was one Bruce Douglas Bochy. They were also the best of the last-place teams here. At 76-86, they weren’t that bad. The hitting was actually pretty good. When you remove pitcher hitting, San Diego’s 108 wRC+ ranked eighth in baseball. Tony Gwynn, Ken Caminiti, Wally Joyner and Rickey Henderson all posted wRC+’s of 127 or better. The pitching and the defense, however, were terrible. Both ranked dead last in the game, and their -132 Fld mark still stands as the fourth-worst team mark since 1947.

This year’s Giants have been nowhere near as poor with the leather. In fact, they rank sixth in fielding as a team, and their wRC+ ranks 11th when you strip out pitchers. They would probably just like to strip out pitchers in general. While not as bad on their face as the ’97 Padres, but they’re close. The ’97 team had a 114 FIP-, and this year’s Giants are sporting a 109 FIP-. The odd thing is that this Giants team does have good pitching. But the combination of none of their good pitchers being great and their bad pitchers being really bad have conspired to torpedo the staff as a whole.

Even with the shaky pitching though, the Giants still don’t seem like they deserve to be in the company of the other denizens of the first-to-worst club. To wit:

Team NP wRC+ Rank FIP- Rank Fld Rank
1915 Athletics 92 13 of 16 127 16 of 16 -62 16 of 16
1982 Reds 87 23 of 26 95 9 of 26 -56 23 of 26
1992 Athletics 101 14 of 28 116 28 of 28 -40 22 of 28
1995 Expos 94 21 of 28 94 6 of 28 -7 18 of 28
1997 Padres 108 6 of 28 114 28 of 28 -132 28 of 28
1998 Marlins 92 23 of 30 121 30 of 30 -12 22 of 30
2000 Rangers 97 18 of 30 103 23 of 30 -61 30 of 30
2011 Twins 93 25 of 30 106 25 of 30 -12.8 20 of 30
2013 Giants 103 11 of 30 109 26 of 30 19.9 6 of 30

The Giants are in the top half of the league in two of three categories, and aren’t last in anything. The other teams here weren’t above average in more than one category, and five of the teams finished last in at least one of the three categories — the ’15 A’s and ’97 Padres came in last in two of the three. And yet, here the Giants find themselves — last place for a month. They may not wind up there, but either way it certainly has been a sobering season.



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Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com. He has written for The Boston Globe, ESPN MLB Insider and ESPN the Magazine, among others. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.


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Luke Hochevar
Guest
Luke Hochevar
2 years 10 months ago

2007 Rays were last.
2008 Rays were 1st.

Ben
Member
Ben
2 years 10 months ago

Indeed but first-to-worst != worst-to-first

John Choiniere
Member
2 years 10 months ago

Looking at the other direction here. Other worst-to-first teams exist, too – e.g., both 1991 World Series participants, MN and ATL

AndyRTR
Guest
AndyRTR
2 years 10 months ago

As were the Braves in the early 90’s before their run of consecutive division championships, but both are inapplicable to the article as it clearly indicates First-to-Worst.

Dave P
Guest
Dave P
2 years 10 months ago

Something else that is more than likely to happen –

2010 – Giants WS Champs
2011 – Miss playoffs entirely
2012 – WS Champs
2013 – Miss playoffs entirely.

I took a quick look back at World series winners to see if this has ever happened, and technically it has twice before (1916-1919 Boston Red Sox, 1944-1947 St. Louis Cardinals). However, back then there weren’t so much “playoffs” as there was just a world series between the teams with the best records in the NL and AL. Unprecedented level of inconsistency.

Anon21
Member
Anon21
2 years 10 months ago

You could go a year further back… also missed playoffs in ’09.

Petruchio
Guest
Petruchio
2 years 10 months ago

Championship every even year, submarine dive every odd.

Seems pretty consistent to me.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
2 years 10 months ago

I hope they do finish last. I am sick of hearing how they’re the best team in baseball because they won 2 of 3 World Series. They never were the best team since at least 1954, just lucky at the right time. The sight of Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy preening makes me sick.

Menthol
Member
Member
Menthol
2 years 10 months ago

Wow, bitter much?

Hurtlocker
Guest
Hurtlocker
2 years 10 months ago

Must be a Tigers fan, where did I leave that broom??

Jason Lukehart
Guest
2 years 10 months ago

I’m not sure what you’re so sour about, but if you feel like going on an anti-Giants rant, you can push back farther than 1954, because they weren’t the best team that year. The ’54 Indians were one of the best teams in history (they just couldn’t win that pesky World Series).

Bret Saberhagen
Guest
Bret Saberhagen
2 years 10 months ago

Not impressed

Hurtlocker
Guest
Hurtlocker
2 years 10 months ago

The Giants year in a nushell; first and third, no outs = Don’t score.
Runners in scoring position, less than two outs = don’t score. Opposing pitcher walks two consecutive batters, next two batters swing at the first pitch and make outs = don’t score. Pitcher throws a no-hitter, gets lit up next start. Same pitcher throws a one hitter, gets lit up the next two atarts. Many, many mental errors. Shaky relief pitching. All this adds up to bad baseball and many loses. Or, the Dodgers sucked all the luck out of the universe?

Fatbot
Guest
Fatbot
2 years 10 months ago

A Giants fan complaining about luck. Wow. Perhaps just a scintilla of recognition of what you just enjoyed over the last three years would be in order before accusing other teams about luck? But I guess every Giants fan is justified in thinking Edgar Renteria should hit 2 HR, or Scutaro should bat .900 with RISP, to win the World Series every year. That’s not luck at all, no sir, not like those evil Dodgers.

cs3
Guest
cs3
2 years 10 months ago

Well to be fair, the Dodgers ARE evil.

Hurtlocker
Guest
Hurtlocker
2 years 10 months ago

It’s pretty lucky the Giants won 8 out of the last 9 world series games.

Paul
Guest
Paul
2 years 10 months ago

Well no pitching depth, no hitting depth, poor farm system = no room for under-par performances or injured players.

Jimbo
Guest
Jimbo
2 years 10 months ago

Bingo. Giants fans blamed Poseys’ season-ending smash-up at home plate for not making postseason in 2011. Maybe so, but that’s not an excuse, that’s a problem.

tz
Guest
tz
2 years 10 months ago

The Expos and Reds also managed to follow up their strike-shortened “pennant” season by winning fewer games in the next season despite playing a full 162 games. Wow.

Tim A
Guest
Tim A
2 years 10 months ago

I guess no team has ever gone true first too worst, whereby they go from best record in MLB too worst the next year.

daniel
Guest
daniel
2 years 10 months ago

According to Wikipedia

“In the early years, the A’s established themselves as one of the dominant teams in the new league, winning the A.L. pennant six times (1902, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1914), winning the World Series in 1910, 1911 and 1913.[3] They won over 100 games in 1910 and 1911, and 99 games in 1914.

In 1914, the Athletics lost the 1914 World Series to the “Miracle Braves” in a four-game sweep. Mack traded, sold or released most of the team’s star players soon after. In his book To Every Thing a Season, Bruce Kuklick points out that there were suspicions that the A’s had thrown the Series, or at least “laid down”, perhaps in protest of Mack’s frugal ways. Mack himself alluded to that rumor years later, but debunked it, asserting that factions within the team along with the allure of a third major league, the Federal League had distracted the team.

The Federal League had been formed to begin play in 1914. As the A.L. had done 13 years before, the new league raided existing A.L. and N.L. teams for players. Several of his best players, including Bender, had already decided to jump before the World Series. Mack refused to match the offers of the F.L. teams, preferring to rebuild with younger (and less expensive) players. The result was a swift and near-total collapse. The Athletics went from a 99–53 (.651) record and a pennant in 1914 to a record of 43–109 (.283) and last place in 1915, and then to 36–117 (.235, still a modern major-league low) in 1916.”

So this scenario is similar to that of the Marlins.

Jaack
Guest
Jaack
2 years 10 months ago

So Jeff Loria will remain with the team for literally all of eternity.

Damn.

Billy
Guest
Billy
2 years 10 months ago

That would require that the game of baseball, the human race, and the planet Earth last for all eternity. I’ll take that trade off.

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